Every brand that survives the regulatory gauntlets of the FDA, EMA, Health Canada, PMDA or other agency deserves its best shot at commercial success. Unfortunately, according to the Launch Excellence series by IMS Health, many brands fall far short of their commercial promise because they were never positioned for success from the start.
The data paints an astonishing picture that over 99% of new product launches failed to meet their launch objectives in the primary market. Success was even lower when multiple markets are considered.
The magnitude and extent of this problem is as breathtaking as it is expensive. In fact, a worst case example in which $1 billion was lost due to a failure to differentiate a new vasodilator is taught at Harvard Business School. What is too often overlooked is that one could just as well gain $1 billion or more in revenues if positioning were done right!
The difference between success and failure comes down to a single common denominator - strategic brand positioning. Well-intentioned brand teams, their agencies and partners often think they have all the ‘t’s crossed’ and the ‘i’s dotted.’ They have captured and shaped insights and assured themselves that the launch campaign would be successful because it was the most creative. The qualitative research results were superb and support what they have known all along. They were prepared to win. But ultimately they did not win...
Creativity without strategy is art. Art alone does not influence behavior and rarely results in new or switched prescriptions. Ad copy focused on attributes and/or functional benefits with little attention paid to emotional arguments rarely leads to sustainable differentiation. And with little differentiation prescriptions rarely rose and sales flatlined as did brand trajectories.
Today’s pharmaceutical industry is much more focused on capturing insights to move brands from functional to emotional benefits. This can be a powerful tool to drive brand differentiation among prescribers as well as patients.
But now the problem has changed. Insights alone are no longer enough. Now smart marketers must focus on understanding the meaning of these insights.
There are many types of insights, but not all are actionable, positioning insights. Questions abound… What do all these insights mean? Are they even positioning insights? Do the ‘premises / promises’ make sense, or are they ‘mixed and matched?’ Which insights trigger which emotions?
The key “watch out” is lack of relevance -- don’t confuse the emotion of enjoying your child peacefully asleep (as commonly depicted in ad creative) with the emotions associated with the decision to prescribe a highly effective, but difficult to tolerate cancer drug.
How can one apply real positioning insights to drive prescriptions?
Without definitive answers to these questions, brand teams are left to rely on their ‘best guess’ or additional rounds of qualitative research. Neither are completely reliable and can actually put marketers in a difficult position when senior management starts asking tough questions.
To further complicate things, brand teams typically find themselves with two to four positioning strategies to consider. Murphy’s Law says if the odds are 50:50, you lose! The odds of selecting the right positioning option is significantly diminished when faced with deciding among three or more options.
The stakes are too great and the risk too high to attempt a pharmaceutical product launch based on a gut feeling, intuition or how much qualitative testing has been done. Confidence levels of over 70% are not uncommon with any of these approaches. Consider this: if a surgeon told you just before an operation that the chance for success would be 70%, would you take those odds? You probably wouldn’t be thrilled.
Fortunately, there is a better way…
The only proven way to determine which positioning strategy should be pursued is through robust quantitative validation. Properly designed quantitative validation is a vital component of positioning optimization because it alone will reveal which positioning option should be pursued and why with a confidence level of over 90%.
To determine the best research model for quantitative validation a few ground rules must be considered.
The model must:
Be designed specifically for marketing pharmaceutical products
Be proven reliable over time
Be validated by usage across multiple clients
Leverage normative data for pharmaceuticals as well as for selected therapeutic categories
Deliver confidence via a depth of information to remove any guesswork
Specifically, one needs to fully understand:
How each positioning option drives prescribing of your brand by HCP specialty, by indication, by market.
The impact your brand will have on major competitive brands. When optimizing an existing brand, compare each new positioning with its current positioning as well as with key competitors.
For what patient types is your drug prescribed? How great is the elasticity when moving from your ‘ideal’ patient to other groups?
What competitive brands will be displaced? Does this differ by patient type?
The key drivers of prescribing your brand and how to better communicate the attributes and benefits of your brand specific to each stakeholder group.
Proper messaging to communicate key attributes and benefits to HCPs and to Patients on as high an emotional level as possible.
The specific guidance for creative execution of optimized brand strategies in core communications materials.
A comprehensive assessment of brand strategy options and quantitative recommendations for optimized long term brand strategy area indications and future market scenarios.
All of these activities are designed to give marketers a depth of insight and confidence needed to best differentiate the brand and how it should be communicated via a data-driven brand story to optimize commercial success.
Deliverables from the quantitative research serve as the creative brief for your brand and all stakeholders who will take it forward. Done right, the resulting positioning and creative execution will not only win design awards, but more importantly it will drive prescriptions and improve patient outcomes.
Advertising or art? If you’re letting a single agency do it all, the new prescriptions you capture and your brand’s sales trajectory over the first three to six months after launch will tell the tale. Can you afford to wait and find out?